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Livestock Committee Chairman's Blog - 25 April 2019

I was recently in Brussels to attend meetings with other European farming unions to discuss the beef sector. I think I surprised everyone, including my wife Jan, that I was able to make it there and back all on my own writes Livestock Committee Chairman Jimmy Ireland.

I visited the NFU Scotland office in Brussels, which we run jointly with the other UK farming unions and was impressed by the knowledge and insight available from the professional policy staff that work there on our behalf. It was good to talk to them and colleagues from across the UK about the challenges facing the sector now.

Of course, no trip to Brussels would be complete without significant discussion on Brexit, and that was at the front of everyone’s minds. However, politics didn’t stop us from addressing the matters at hand.

At the meeting involving all European farming unions, we received a presentation from a French research institute, Institut de l'Elevage, about the opportunities for the sector to address climate change and recognising the positive contribution that could be made through improvements in the sector.

It is worth pointing readers towards our Environment Policy Manager Andrew Midgley’s recent blog on how agriculture can provide the solutions to address climate change: https://www.nfus.org.uk/news/blog/environment-and-land-use-manager-blog-12-march-2019

Farmers across Europe also discussed the impact of the drought which hit much of the continent last year. I made the point that droughts are uncommon for us in Scotland but that, when the rain stops falling, we can begin to feel the impacts rapidly, as some parts of the country found out last year.

The European beef sector was united in our concern that the European Commission is continuing its negotiations with the South American trading bloc Mercosur with the hopes of a trade deal. Our message is clear – any additional access for South American beef in to the European market would be unacceptable as it would challenge farm incomes and food security.

On the second day of our trip to Brussels I attended a discussion between farming groups and the European Commission.

At this meeting the Commission explained the steps it’s taking to tackle unfair trading practices and provide greater market transparency – it’s fair to say that they’ve learned about from the Groceries Code Adjudicator in the United Kingdom.

You can find out more here: https://ec.europa.eu/info/food-farming-fisheries/key-policies/common-agricultural-policy/market-measures/unfair-trading-practices_en

I would stress though that attending these meetings at a time when the UK is expected to leave the European Union left me feeling like I was in limbo.

I was eager to contribute to discussions but left unsure of how relevant our views are to our French and German counterparts and how relevant the future direction of the European Union would be to farmers and crofters here in Scotland.

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